John Philip Sousa 4th, great-grandson of the man who composed "The Stars and Stripes Forever," is orchestrating SunAmerica's march into banks.
This month, Mr. Sousa, 48, closed his consulting business in Henderson, Nev., and joined the Los Angeles-based financial services company as executive vice president in charge of selling annuities through banks.
Like his father, who turned his back on music for a career in journalism, Mr. Sousa realized early that his pedigree couldn't overcome his lack of musical ability.
At age 13, Mr. Sousa conducted the Marine Corps Band on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Still, he said, the band, made famous by his great- grandfather, was leading him more than he led it.
"I have absolutely zero musical talent," Mr. Sousa said. "If I can get my FM radio tuned in, I'm having a wonderful musical day."
Now, after a varied career as a politician, banker, third-party marketing executive, and most recently a consultant to banks, Mr. Sousa will manage SunAmerica's push for bank sales of fixed and variable annuities.
SunAmerica strongly increased its presence in banks this month by buying Ford Motor Co.'s annuity business. The acquisition includes $3 billion of annuity reserves - 70% of which came from bank sales.
Also this month, SunAmerica agreed to buy $950 million of annuity reserves from Central National Life Co. of Omaha. Most of these reserves came from banks and third-party marketers.
To manage sales of its rapidly growing bank portfolio, SunAmerica executives turned to bankers for help in finding the right leader. And Mr. Sousa's name kept popping up, they said.
"While I can't tell you it was love at first sight," said Joseph M. Tumbler, SunAmerica's vice chairman and Mr. Sousa's boss, "I can say it was the customer who said he would be the best one to help us."
Putting together an organization to manage SunAmerica's lofty aspirations for bank sales suits Mr. Sousa just fine, he said.
"I'm very good at building and probably not worth a tinker's damn on the maintenance," Mr. Sousa said.
His greatest joy and professional accomplishment, he said, was building Pamco Securities and Insurance Services, a third-party marketer later acquired by Liberty Financial Cos., Boston. At the time, Mr. Sousa's car even sported a license plate reading "Mr. Pamco."
"What gets John's adrenaline flowing is being a builder," said Alan Blank, who was in 1981 a co-founder of Pamco and now is Mr. Sousa's competitor as national sales manager for banks at American Skandia Life Assurance Co., Shelton, Conn. "Working for an established firm probably wouldn't be enough to get him out of bed in the morning."
SunAmerica's play for more bank business strikes a responsive chord with industry observers. "On balance, it's not a bad idea," said Sallie L. Krawcheck, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "Most Americans don't have an insurance agent, but they do have (business with) a bank branch."
But Ms. Krawcheck quickly pointed out that SunAmerica faces stiff competition from companies such as ITT Hartford Life Insurance Cos. that jumped on the idea early and aggressively.
Nevertheless, she said, she expects Mr. Sousa and SunAmerica to make their presence felt quickly. "SunAmerica is generally pretty good at executing on their ideas," she said.